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generated during the 1974 Super Outbreak.
|Date of tornado outbreak:||April 3–4, 1974|
|Maximum rated tornado2:||F5 tornado|
|Tornadoes caused:||148 confirmed|
|Damages:||$3.5 billion (2005 dollars)|
|Areas affected:||Most of central and eastern North America|
1Time from first tornado to last tornado
The Super Outbreak was the second largest tornado outbreak on record for a single 24-hour period, just behind the April 25–28, 2011 tornado outbreak. It was also the most violent tornado outbreak ever recorded, with 30 F4/F5 tornadoes reported. From April 3 to April 4, 1974, there were 148 tornadoes confirmed in 13 U.S. states, including Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi, Georgia, North Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia, and New York; and the Canadian province of Ontario. It extensively damaged approximately 900 square miles (2,330 square kilometers) along a total combined path length of 2,600 miles (4,200 km).
The Super Outbreak of tornadoes of 3–4 April 1974 remains one of the most outstanding severe convective weather episodes of record in the continental United States. The outbreak far surpassed previous and succeeding events in severity, longevity and extent, with the notable exception of the April 2011 Super Outbreak. With a death toll of over 300, this outbreak was the deadliest since the 1936 Tupelo-Gainesville tornado outbreak. Its death toll would also not be surpassed until the April 25–28, 2011 tornado outbreak killed 324 people.
A powerful spring-time low pressure system developed across the North American Interior Plains on April 1. While moving into the Mississippi and Ohio Valley areas, a surge of very moist air intensified the storm further while there were sharp temperature contrasts between both sides of the system. NOAA officials were expecting a severe weather outbreak on April 3, but not of the extent which ultimately occurred. Several F2 and F3 tornadoes had struck portions of the Ohio Valley and the South in a separate, earlier outbreak on April 1 and 2, and this earlier storm system included three killer tornadoes in Kentucky, Alabama, and Tennessee. The town of Campbellsburg, northeast of Louisville, was hard-hit in this earlier outbreak, with a large portion of the town destroyed by an F3. Between the two outbreaks, an additional tornado was reported in Indiana in the early morning hours of April 3, several hours before the official start of the outbreak.
On Wednesday, April 3, severe weather watches already were issued from the morning from south of the Great Lakes, while in portions of the Upper Midwest, snow was reported, with heavy rain falling across central Michigan and much of Ontario. St. Louis, Missouri was pounded by a very severe thunderstorm early in the afternoon which, while it did not produce a tornado, did include damaging baseball-sized hailstones.
By the early afternoon, numerous supercells and clusters of thunderstorms developed and the outbreak began quickly, with storms developing in central Illinois and a secondary zone developing near the Appalachians across eastern Tennessee, central Alabama, and northern Georgia. The worst of the outbreak shifted towards the Ohio Valley between 4:30 pm and 6:30 pm EDT where it produced four of the seven F5s over a span of just two hours when three powerful supercells traveled across the area—one in central and southern Ohio, a second one across southern Indiana and Ohio, and a third one in northern Kentucky.
During the evening hours, activity again began to escalate farther to the south, with several violent tornadoes crossing the northern third of Alabama. Activity also spread to central Tennessee and eastern Kentucky, with numerous tornadoes, most of which were concentrated in the Cumberland Plateau region. Additional supercells developed across northern Indiana and southern Michigan producing additional violent and/or killer tornadoes between 6:00 pm and 10:00 pm EDT including the Windsor, Ontario tornado. Michigan was not hit as hard as neighboring states or Windsor, with only one twister which hit near Coldwater and Hillsdale causing any fatalities, all in mobile homes; however, thunderstorm downpours caused flash floods, and north of the warm front in the Upper Peninsula, heavy snowfall was reported.
Activity in the south moved towards the Appalachians during the overnight hours and produced the final tornadoes across the southeast during the morning of April 4.
A 2004 survey for Risk Management Solutions, citing an earlier Dr. Ted Fujita study, found that three-quarters of all tornadoes in the 1974 Super Outbreak were produced by 30 'families' of tornadoes; i.e., multiple tornadoes spawned in succession by a single thunderstorm cell. Note that most of these tornadoes were not associated with squall lines. These were long-lived and long-tracked supercells.
Events and aftermath
Never before had so many violent (F5 and F4) tornadoes been observed in a single weather phenomenon. There were seven F5 tornadoes and 23 F4 tornadoes. The outbreak began in Morris, Illinois, at around 1:00pm on April 3. As the storm system moved east where daytime heating had made the air more unstable, the tornadoes grew more intense. A tornado that struck near Monticello, Indiana was an F4 and had a path length of 121 miles (195 km), the longest path length of any tornado for this outbreak. Nineteen people were killed in this tornado. The first F5 tornado of the day struck the city of Xenia, Ohio, at 4:40pm EDT. It killed 34, injured 1,150, completely destroyed about one-fourth of the city, and caused serious damage in another fourth of the city.
Seven F5s were observed—one each in Indiana, Ohio and Kentucky, three in Alabama and the final one which crossed through parts of Indiana, Ohio and Kentucky. 31 were killed in Brandenburg, Kentucky, and 28 died in Guin, Alabama. One tornado also occurred in Windsor, Ontario, Canada, killing nine and injuring 30 others there, most of them at the former Windsor Curling Club. During the peak of the outbreak, a staggering sixteen tornadoes were on the ground simultaneously. At one point forecasters in Indiana, frustrated because they could not keep up with all of the simultaneous tornado activity, put the entire state of Indiana under a blanket tornado warning. This was the first and only time in U.S. history that an entire state was under a tornado warning.
There were 18 hours of continuous tornado activity. The outbreak finally ended in Caldwell County, NC, at about 7:00am on April 4. A total of 315 to 330 people were killed in 171 tornadoes from April 1 through April 4 and 5,484 were injured.
The 1974 Super Outbreak occurred at the end of a very strong, nearly record-setting La Niña event. The 1973–74 La Niña was just as strong as the 1998–99 La Niña. Another tornado outbreak, which may be linked to La Niña, was the March 12, 2006 tornado outbreak. Despite the apparent connection between La Niña and two of the largest tornado outbreaks in US history, no definitive linkage exists between La Niña and this outbreak or tornado activity in general.
Most significant tornadoes
The tornado that struck the city of Xenia, Ohio stands as the deadliest individual tornado of the Super Outbreak, killing 32 and destroying a significant portion of the town. It was one of the most intense storms then recorded, stripping some trees bare of their branches, snapping large trees in half and depositing their crowns 50 yards away, and leveling nearly all structures in the damage path.
The tornado formed near Bellbrook, Ohio, southwest of Xenia, at about 4:30pm EDT. It began as a moderate-sized tornado, then intensified while moving northeast at about 50 mph (80 km/h). The tornado exhibited multiple-vortex structure and became very large as it approached town.
Gil Whitney, the weather specialist for WHIO-TV in Dayton, alerted viewers in Montgomery and Greene County (where Xenia is located) about the possible tornado, broadcasting the radar image of the supercell with a pronounced hook echo on the rear flank of the storm several minutes before it actually struck. The storm was visible on radar because of raindrops wrapping around the circulation. When the storm reached Xenia at 4:40pm, apartment buildings, homes, businesses, churches, and schools including Xenia High School were destroyed. Students in the school, practicing for a play, took cover in the main hallway seconds before a direct hit from the tornado. A school bus dropped on top of the stage the students were practicing on. The high school suffered extensive damage with the entire 2nd floor swept off the building.
Several railroad cars were lifted and blown over as the tornado passed over a moving Penn Central freight train in the center of town. The hardest hit area, and the first area struck, were the adjacent Arrowhead and Windsor Park subdivisions near U.S. Route 68, where entire rows of brick homes were cleanly swept away. It toppled gravestones in Cherry Grove Cemetery, then moved through the length of the downtown business district, passing west of the courthouse, and into the Pinecrest Garden district, which was extensively affected. The still photo below shows the tornado as it passed Greene Memorial Hospital, destroying homes in Pinecrest Gardens northeast of downtown.
The Xenia tornado was recorded on film by one resident, and its sound was recorded on tape by another from inside an apartment complex. Before the tornado hit the building, the resident left the tape recorder on, and it was found after the storm. At the same time a few blocks away, 16 year old Xenia resident Bruce Boyd captured 1 minute and 42 seconds of footage with a "Super-8" 8mm movie camera, a pre-1973 model without sound recording capability. The footage was later paired with the nearby tape recording. The film shows multiple vortices within the larger circulation as the storm swept through Xenia.
A few pictures were taken of the tornado before it entered Xenia and later passing through the city. The early pictures taken by Homer G. Ramby show what the tornado before entering Xenia. The photos taken from inside Xenia suggest that the tornado widened as it moved and turned into an F-5 inside the city.
Upon exiting Xenia, the tornado passed through Wilberforce, heavily damaging several campus and residential buildings of Wilberforce University. Central State University also sustained considerable damage. Afterwards, the tornado weakened before dissipating in Clark County near South Vienna, traveling a little over 30 miles (48 km). Its maximum width was a half-mile (0.8 km) in Xenia. The same parent storm later spawned a weaker tornado northeast of Columbus in Franklin County.
32 people were killed in the disaster, and about 1,150 were injured in Xenia. In addition to the direct fatalities, two Ohio Air National Guardsmen deployed for disaster assistance who were killed on April 17 when a fire swept through their temporary barracks in a furniture store. The memorial in downtown Xenia lists 34 deaths, in honor of the two Guardsmen. About 1,400 buildings (roughly half of the town) were heavily damaged or destroyed. Damage was estimated at US$100 million ($471.7 million in 2013 dollars).
President Richard Nixon made an unannounced visit to Xenia a few days later. It would be the first (and only) city affected by the 1974 Super Outbreak that he would visit. Upon inspecting the damage, he said:
"As I look back over the disasters, I saw the earthquake in Anchorage in 1964; I saw the hurricanes... Hurricane Camille in 1969 down in Mississippi, and I saw Hurricane Agnes in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. And it is hard to tell the difference among them all, but I would say in terms of destruction, just total devastation, this is the worst I have seen."
President Nixon immediately declared Xenia a disaster area. Although the Federal Disaster Relief Act was already introduced in 1973, it still had not passed Congress. The 1974 Super Outbreak disaster was a catalyst for accelerated passage of the act through Congress in 1974, according to Nixon.
It took several months for the city to recover from the tornado, with the help of the Red Cross and the Ohio National Guard assisting the recovery efforts. Most of the town was quickly re-built afterward.
The Xenia tornado was one of two rated F5 that affected Ohio during the outbreak, the other striking the Cincinnati area (see Cincinnati/Sayler Park area tornado, below). Xenia was later struck by two other tornadoes—both a smaller one in April 1989 and a larger one in September 2000, which was an F4 twister that killed one and injured about 100 in an area parallel to and just north of the 1974 path.
Dr. Ted Fujita and a team of colleagues undertook a 10-month study of the 1974 Super Outbreak. Along with discovering much about tornadoes which was not known before, such as the downburst and the microburst, and assessing damage to surrounding structures, the Xenia tornado was determined to be the worst of the 148 storms.
|Outbreak death toll|
|All deaths were tornado-related|
The Brandenburg tornado, also producing F5 damage, touched down in Breckinridge County at 4:25 pm CDT and followed a 34-mile (55 km) path. First producing F3 damage at the north edge of Hardinsburg, the storm intensified as it moved into Meade County, producing F5 damage as it swept through Brandenburg and surrounding rural areas, along the Ohio River before dissipating in Indiana. 31 were killed in the storm including 18 at a single block of Green Street in Brandenburg. The vast majority of homes and businesses including the High School, the Baptist Church, the old bank building and the Meade Hotel were either damaged or destroyed. The radio station WMMG (AM) was also destroyed. Sadly, the citizens of Brandenburg had received very little warning, which may account in part for the tragically high death toll; it has been reported that the only warning received by listeners to WMMG was when the disc jockey on duty looked out the window, saw the twister coming, and shouted at his listeners to take cover, shortly before the twister destroyed the radio station. Homes were completely swept away by the tornado, leaving nothing behind but empty basements or clean slabs. At least one obliterated home had its walk-out basement walls completely buckle and collapse. The walls were thick and made of poured concrete. Cars were also thrown and mangled beyond recognition, some of which had nothing left but the frame and tires. Several tombstones in the Cap Anderson cemetery were toppled and broken, and some were displaced a small distance. Most of the trees were debarked or snapped off at the base and thrown. Grass was scoured from the ground in some areas as well. The same storm would later produce tornadoes in the Louisville metro area. A complete description of homes and other structures destroyed in order by the tornado in Brandenburg can be found here.
When the twister struck on April 3, 1974, many of the Brandenburg residents at that time had also experienced a major flood of the Ohio River that affected the area in 1937 as well as numerous other communities along the river, including Louisville and Paducah.
The same storm would later produce tornadoes in the Louisville metro area.
About an hour after the Brandenburg tornado, an F4 tornado formed in the southwest part of Jefferson County near Kosmosdale. Another funnel cloud formed over Standiford Field Airport, touched down at The Kentucky Fair and Exposition Center, and destroyed the majority of the horse barns at the center and part of Freedom Hall (a multipurpose arena) before it crossed Interstate 65, scattering several vehicles on that busy expressway. The tornado continued its 22-mile (35 km) journey northeast where it demolished most of Audubon Elementary School and affected the neighborhoods of Audubon, Cherokee Triangle, Cherokee-Seneca, Crescent Hill, Indian Hills, Northfield, Rolling Fields, and Tyler Park. The tornado ended near the junction of Interstates 264 and 71 after killing three people, injuring 207 people, destroying over 900 homes, and damaging thousands of others. Cherokee Park, a historic 409-acre (1.66 km2) municipal park located at Eastern Parkway and Cherokee Road, had thousands of mature trees destroyed. A massive re-planting effort was undertaken by the community in the aftermath of the tornado.
In addition to the three fatalities directly associated with the event, two other deaths were indirectly associated; a heart attack in the immediate aftermath and a construction worker who fell while repairing Freedom Hall two weeks later.
Dick Gilbert, a helicopter traffic reporter for radio station WHAS-AM, followed the tornado through portions of its track including when it heavily damaged the Louisville Water Company's Crescent Hill pumping station, and gave vivid descriptions of the damage as seen from the air. A WHAS-TV cameraman also filmed the tornado when it passed just east of the Central Business District of Louisville.
WHAS-AM broke away from its regular programming shortly before the tornado struck Louisville and was on-air live with John Burke, the chief meteorologist at the National Weather Service's Louisville office at Standiford Field when the tornado first descended. The station remained on the air delivering weather bulletins and storm-related information until well into the early morning hours of April 4. As electrical power had been knocked out to a substantial portion of the city, the radio station became a clearinghouse for vital information and contact with emergency workers, not only in Louisville but across the state of Kentucky due to its 50,000-watt clear-channel signal and the fact that storms had knocked numerous broadcasting stations in smaller communities, such as Frankfort, off the air. Then-Governor Wendell Ford commended the station's personnel for their service to the community in the time of crisis, and Dick Gilbert later received a special commendation from then-President Richard Nixon for his tracking of the tornado from his helicopter.
Of the F5 tornadoes produced by the outbreak, the DePauw tornado was the first to form, touching down at 3:20 pm local time. It is probably the least-known of the F5 tornadoes in the outbreak as it traveled through rural areas in southern Indiana northwest of Louisville, traversing about 65 miles (105 km) through parts of Perry and Harrison Counties. F5 damage was observed near the community of Depauw, while areas near Palmyra and Borden were also heavily affected by the tornado. All but 10 homes in Martinsburg were destroyed; and in the Daisy Hill community homes were completely swept away. As the tornado moved through rural areas, many farms were completely leveled. Published photographs of this storm reveal a very wide debris cloud and wall cloud structure, with no visible condensation funnel at times. Overall, six were killed by the storm and over 75 were injured. One of the fatalities was crushed by a school bus that flew into a ditch which she was taking cover. It was the only F5 that had a path width in excess of 1-mile (1.6 km).
Soon after the Depauw tornado lifted, the Hanover/Madison F4 twister formed near Henryville and traveled through Jefferson County and leveled many structures in the small towns of Hanover and Madison. Eleven were killed in this storm while an additional 300 were injured. According to a WHAS-TV Louisville reporter in a special report about the outbreak, 90% of Hanover was destroyed or severely damaged, including the Hanover College campus. Despite the fact that no one was killed or seriously injured at the college, 32 of the College's 33 buildings were damaged, including two that were completely destroyed and six that sustained major structural damage. Hundreds of trees were down, completely blocking every campus road. All utilities were knocked out and communication with those off campus was nearly impossible. Damage to the campus alone was estimated at about US$10 million. In Madison alone where seven of the fatalities took place, about 300 homes were destroyed and the tornado also brushed the community of China causing additional fatalities.
The same storm would later strike the Cincinnati area, producing multiple tornadoes including another F5.
Cincinnati/Sayler Park area
The tornado was only one of two F5 tornadoes in recorded history to have traveled through three states, the other being the Tri-State Tornado that devastated locations in Missouri, Illinois, and Indiana on March 18, 1925. The Cincinnati/Sayler Park tornado (which has a much shorter path length than the Tri-State Tornado) traveled through portions of Indiana, Kentucky and Ohio.
The Sayler Park tornado was among a series of tornadoes that earlier struck portions of southern Indiana from north of Brandenburg, Kentucky, into southwest Ohio. It began shortly before 4:30 pm CDT or 5:30 pm EDT in southeastern Indiana in Ohio County north of Rising Sun near the Ohio River. It then traveled through Boone County, Kentucky, before reaching its peak intensity in the western suburbs of the Cincinnati Metropolitan area. Most severely affected was Sayler Park at the western edge of the city where F5 damage occurred. Homes were swept away in a hilly area near a lake, and boats were thrown and destroyed. Other areas near Cincinnati also suffered extensive damage to structures. This tornado was witnessed on television by thousands of people, as WCPO aired the tornado live during special news coverage of the tornadoes.
The tornado continued northeastward, passing through multiple neighborhoods and destroying numerous homes. Other areas affected were Bridgetown, Mack, Dent and Delhi. Damage in Delhi was rated as high as F4.
The second so-called F5 "Tri-State" tornado killed 3 and injured over 100 in Hamilton County, Ohio. It was considered the most-photographed tornado of the outbreak.
This tornado dissipated west of White Oak but the same thunderstorm activity was responsible for two other tornado touchdowns in the Lebanon and Mason areas. The Mason tornado, which started in the northern Cincinnati subdivisions of Arlington Heights and Elmwood Place, was rated F4 and killed two, while the Warren County tornado was rated an F2 and injured 10. The storm that spawned this family of tornadoes weakened before moving through portions of the Miami Valley and the rest of southern Ohio.
This half-mile (0.8 km) wide F4 tornado developed (as part of a tornado family that moved from Illinois to Michigan for 260 miles) during the late afternoon hours. This tornado produced the longest damage path recorded during the 1974 Super Outbreak, on a southwest to northeast path that nearly crossed the entire state of Indiana. According to most records, this tornado formed near Otterbein in Benton County in west central Indiana to Noble County just northwest of Fort Wayne - a total distance of about 121 miles (195 km).
Further analysis by Ted Fujita indicated that at the start of the tornado path near Otterbein, downburst winds (also called "twisting downburst") disrupted the tornado's inflow which caused it to briefly dissipate while a new tornado formed near Brookston in White County at around 4:50 pm EDT and then traveled for 109 miles (175 km). It also struck portions of six other counties, with the hardest hit being White County and its town of Monticello. Much of the town was destroyed including the courthouse, some churches and cemeteries, 40 businesses and numerous homes as well as three schools. It also heavily damaged the Penn Central bridge over the Tippecanoe River. Overall damage according to the NOAA was estimated at about US$250 million with US$100 million damage in Monticello alone.
After the tornado struck Monticello, the tornado reached peak strength and completely leveled several farms northwest of town. The tornado then went on to tear through the west side of Rochester, where businesses were destroyed and homes were completely leveled and swept away. Riddle Elementary School was badly damaged as well. The tornado then struck Talma, destroying most of the town, including a fastening plant and the schoolhouse. The tornado continued northeast and struck the south sides of Atwood and Leesburg, with additional severe damage occurring at both locations. The tornado then crossed Dewart Lake and Lake Wawasee, destroying multiple lakeside homes and trailers. The Wawasee Airport was hard hit, where hangars were destroyed and planes were thrown and demolished. The tornado destroyed several buildings as it passed between Ligonier and Topeka, including Perry School and a Monsanto Plant. The tornado then finally dissipated near Oliver Lake airfield.
Eighteen were killed during the storm including five from Fort Wayne when their mini-bus fell 50 feet (15 m) into the Tippecanoe River near Monticello. One passenger did survive the fall. Five others were killed in White County, six in Fulton County and one in Kosciusko County. The National Guard had assisted the residents in the relief and cleanup efforts and then-Governor Otis Bowen visited the area days after the storm.
One of the few consolations from the tornado was that a century-old bronze bell that belonged to the White County Courthouse and served as timekeeper was found intact despite being thrown a great distance.
The tornado itself had contradicted a long-time myth that a tornado would "not follow terrain into steep valleys" as while hitting Monticello, it descended a 60-foot (18 m) hill near the Tippecanoe River and damaged several homes afterwards.
Tanner, Alabama (1st tornado)
As the cluster of thunderstorms were crossing much of the Ohio Valley and northern Indiana, additional strong storms developed much further south just east of the Mississippi River into the Tennessee Valley and Mississippi. The first clusters would produce its first deadly tornadoes into Alabama during the early evening hours.
Most of the small town of Tanner, west of Huntsville in Limestone County, was destroyed when two violent tornadoes struck the community 30 minutes apart. The first tornado formed at 6:30 pm CDT in Franklin County, Alabama and ended just over 90 minutes later in Franklin County, Tennessee. Serious damage from this first storm began in the Mt. Moriah community, where the tornado rapidly developed and swept away homes and hurled fleeing vehicles, with additional severe damage occurring in the Phil Campbell area, and with numerous homes swept away near Moulton further along the path. A chemical plant was destroyed, and a water pump was completely lifted out of a well house along Highway-157. In one case, the destruction was so complete that a witness reported that the largest recognizable objects among scattered debris from an obliterated house, were some bed-springs.
Intense ground scouring occurred, and red soil was found dug up and plastered against debarked trees. Crossing the Tennessee River as a large waterspout, the storm then slammed into Tanner, where many homes were destroyed and pavement was scoured from roads. The tornado then struck the Harvest area where additional severe damage occurred, including large metal power line truss towers that were ripped from their anchors and thrown. Eyewitnesses reported that the tornado was quite large and demolished everything along its 51-mile long path.
Tanner, Alabama (2nd tornado)
While rescue efforts were underway to look for people under the destroyed structures, few were aware that another violent tornado would strike the area. The path of the second tornado, which formed at 7:35 pm CDT was 50 miles in length, and the storm formed along the Tennessee River less than a mile from the path of the earlier storm; the first half of its path very closely paralleled its predecessor. Many of the structures that were missed by the first tornado in Tanner were demolished along with remaining portions of already damaged structures; the communities of Capshaw and Harvest were likewise struck twice. A man injured in the first tornado was taken to a church in the area, which collapsed in the second tornado, killing him.
Many other structures in Franklin, Limestone and Madison counties were completely demolished, including significant portions of the communities of Harvest and Hazel Green just northeast of Tanner. The death toll from the two tornadoes was over 50 and over 400 were injured. Most of the fatalities occurred in and around the Tanner area. Over 1,000 houses, 200 mobile homes and numerous other outbuildings, automobiles, power lines and trees were completely demolished or heavily damaged.
The most recent official National Weather Service records show that both of the Tanner tornadoes were rated F5. However, the rating of the second Tanner tornado is still disputed by some scientists; analysis in one publication estimates F3-F4 damage along the entirety of the second storm's path.
This was the second state to have been hit by more than two F5s during the 1974 Super Outbreak. The next occurrence of two F5s hitting the same state on the same day happened in March 1990 in Kansas, and then in Mississippi on April 27, 2011. Meanwhile, the next F5 to hit the state was on April 4, 1977 near Birmingham.
Tanner was hit by yet another EF5 tornado on April 27, 2011.
While tornadoes were causing devastation in the northwestern most corner of the state, another supercell crossing the Mississippi-Alabama state line produced another violent tornado that touched down in Pickens County before heading northeast for nearly 2 hours towards the Jasper area causing major damage to its downtown as the F4 storm struck. Damage was also reported in Cullman from the storm before it lifted.
The Jasper tornado first touched near Aliceville, producing scattered damage as it tracked northwestward. The damage became more intense continuous as the tornado entered Tuscaloosa County. The tornado continued to strengthen south of Berry, and two people were killed near the Walker County line when a church was destroyed. The tornado tore directly through downtown Jasper at 6:57 PM, resulting in severe damage and at least 100 injuries. The Walker County courthouse sustained major damage, and a new fire station was completely leveled. The fireman on duty at the time took shelter underneath a nearby bridge, and survived without injury. The tornado crossed Lewis Smith Lake and moved across the south side of Cullman at 7:40 pm. Multiple homes and shopping centers were damaged or destroyed in the area, resulting in one death and 36 injuries. The tornado finally dissipated northeast of Cullman a short time later.
In total, the storm killed 3 and injured over 150 while 500 buildings were destroyed and nearly 400 others severely damaged. At the same time, a third supercell was crossing the state line near the track of the previous two.
Another violent tornado developed and devastated the town of Guin, and caused additional severe damage in Delmar. The Guin tornado was the longest-duration F5 tornado recorded in the outbreak, and considered to be one of the most violent ever recorded. It formed at around 8:50 pm CDT near the Mississippi-Alabama border before tearing through Guin and Delmar, and traveling over 100 miles (160 km) to just west of Huntsville before lifting just after 10:30 pm CDT. According to pictures and historical accounts, many homes were completely swept away in Guin. The destruction was so complete, that even some of the foundations were dislodged and swept away as well. A very large industrial warehouse structure was completely obliterated and partially swept away, with steel I-beams twisted and broken. Many trees in the area were shredded and debarked, some of which had sheet metal and mobile home frames wrapped around them. The formation of this tornado was preceded by a number of reports of large hail and straight-line wind damage around Starkville, MS. The path of the Guin tornado was just a few dozen miles south of where the Tanner tornadoes struck about two hours earlier.
The tornado killed 23 in Guin in Marion County and another five in the community of Delmar in Winston County. Close to 300 people in total were injured, and Guin was left in ruins. More than five hundred homes were destroyed and the Bankhead National Forest lost so many trees that the path of the tornado was visible from satellite.
Huntsville was affected shortly before 11:00 pm EDT by a strong F3 tornado produced by the same thunderstorm that produced the Guin tornado. This tornado produced heavy damage in the south end of the city, eventually destroying nearly 1,000 structures.
The tornado first hit Redstone Arsenal, damaging or destroying 99 buildings. But thanks to early warning from a MP picket line on Rideout Road (now Research Park Boulevard (AL-255) ), there were only three, relatively minor, injuries. One of the buildings destroyed was a publications center for the Nuclear Weapons Training School on the Arsenal. For months afterwards, portions of classified documents were being returned by farmers in Tennessee and Alabama. Many homes were badly damaged or destroyed as the tornado passed through residential areas of the city. The Glenn'll trailer park was completely destroyed by the tornado, and some sources list a fatality occurring at that location.
The tornado then reached Monte Sano Mountain, which has an elevation of 1,640 feet (492 m). The National Weather Service office at Huntsville Jetport was briefly "closed and abandoned" due to the severe weather conditions.
Windsor, Ontario, Canada
In addition to its numerous other records, this outbreak also spawned one of the deadliest tornadoes in Canadian history. Affecting Windsor, Ontario and surrounding areas in southwestern Essex County, the F3 twister killed nine people and injured over 20. All of the fatalities occurred inside a curling rink (the former Windsor Curling Club) just south of the downtown area that was heavily damaged. This tornado is likely the same one that had touched down in Flat Rock, Michigan about 7:50 pm (19:50) Eastern Time. Since the storm arrived after dark, it was all the more dangerous.
The storm that brought it in was accompanied by lightning, and torrential rains as it first touched down on southeastern edge of the Devonshire Mall, which was undergoing a large addition. It severely damaged the steel structure for a new department store, though no one was on the site at the time. The tornado lifted as it crossed the E.C. Row Expressway, then touched down again tearing the roof off the vehicle painting facility at Chrysler Canada's Windsor Assembly Plant. Once again, the facility was vacant, except for two security guards, due to re-tooling that was taking place. The guards took shelter in a secure room on the ground floor just moments before the tornado struck.
The tornado continued across a vacant field, directly behind the Windsor Curling Club. It struck the Club at exactly 8:09 pm, sending the large roof of the structure into the air, sending pieces of it into the surrounding neighborhood, and causing the back wall to collapse on the people inside. Those inside were unaware of the severe weather that had been bearing down on them, as they had been playing in a curling bonspiel, and had no way of knowing about the tornado warnings that had been issued just twenty minutes earlier. This curling bonspiel was being sponsored by Chrysler Canada, also a victim of the tornado, when it tore the roof off its nearby paint facility.
One woman who narrowly escaped death happened to be entering the curling club from the east at the exact moment the tornado struck. The winds caught her as she opened the door, and she screamed for help and hung onto the large door handles. A man ran to her help, and grabbed her arms, as she was horizontal, and on the verge of being sucked away. Her shoes were sucked right off her feet and were never found.
Much of the city was briefly flooded with approximately 15 centimeters (6 inches) of water from the rain brought by the storm. Most of the media in the Windsor and Essex County area had been following the weather situation closely in the United States via radio and TV stations from Detroit, and had issued public alerts and warnings in concert with their American counterparts. The Canadian Weather Service (now Environment Canada) did not issue a tornado warning until 8:15 pm (20:15), more than 5 minutes after the tornado had struck the Windsor Curling Club. In the aftermath of the tornado, the City of Windsor merged the Windsor Curling Club and Windsor Ladies' Curling Club with its Roseland Golf Course (now the Roseland Golf and Curling Club) in the south end of Windsor, moving from their location on Central Avenue, near Tecumseh Road.
While it was the only tornado reported in Canada from the outbreak, it was the country's deadliest since the 1946 one that killed 17—closer than one hundred meters from the path of this tornado.
- List of tornadoes and tornado outbreaks
- List of tornadoes striking downtown areas
- List of F5 and EF5 tornadoes
- April 25–28, 2011 tornado outbreak – a very similar outbreak, but was more deadly and had more tornadoes
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- NWS Louisville. "April 1, 1974". Retrieved 2007-03-03.
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- Data from the Storm Prediction Center archives, which are accessible through free software created and maintained by John Hart, lead forecaster for the SPC.
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- Slattery, Pat. "TORNADO OUTBREAK OPENED EYES ABOUT MYTHS, SCHOOL SAFETY". NOAA.
- Simpson, Jamie (March 31, 2004). "Radar Provides Life-Saving Warnings Of Tornadoes". WHIO-TV (Dayton, Ohio).
- "History of the Xenia Community Schools' Buildings". Xenia Community Schools. Retrieved 2008-05-09.
- Boyd, Bruce (February 10, 2010). "Xenia Ohio Tornado". YouTube.
- Ohio Historical Society. "April 3, 1974: Xenia Tornado".
- by extremeplanet (November 27, 2012). "The Indefinitive List of the Strongest Tornadoes Ever Recorded (Part IV) |". Extremeplanet.me. Retrieved April 18, 2013.
- "April 3, 1974 Xenia Tornado Memorial Marker". Hmdb.org. Retrieved April 18, 2013.
- U.S. Inflation Calculator
- John T. Woolley and Gerhard Peters (via Richard Nixon) (April 13, 1974). "Remarks During an Inspection Tour of Tornado Damage in Ohio". The American Presidency Project. Retrieved 2011-04-25.
- Nixon, Richard M. (1974). "The President’s Remarks at the Bill Signing Ceremony at the White House. May 22, 1974". Presidential Documents: Richard Nixon, 1974 10 (21): 788. Retrieved 2011-04-26.
- Ohio Memory On-line Scrapbook. "30th Anniversary of the 1974 Xenia Tornado".
- "1975 Winners". Pulitzer.org. Retrieved June 12, 2012.
- Sharp, Debra (April 2, 1999). "Super tornado outbreak : Xenia, Ohio, serves as twister memorial". USA Today.
- Taylor, David (September 22, 2000). "Few warned of twister". The Cincinnati Enquirer.
- Fujita "Tetsuya Theodore Fujita". The Tornado Project. 1998. Retrieved 2011-04-26.
- "Analysis and Reconstruction of the 1974 Tornado Super Outbreak". Risk Management Solutions. April 2, 2004. p. 5. Retrieved 2011-04-26.
- Anonymous. "Our Meade County Heritage : Forward and Dedication". The Meade County Messenger.
- "April 3, 1974". Crh.noaa.gov. Retrieved April 18, 2013.
- "Don Macy Photos of April 3 1974". April31974.com. April 3, 1974. Retrieved April 18, 2013.
- Woolfolk, Betty A. "The Overall View of The Tornado Destruction". The Meade County Messenger.
- U.S. Information Agency. "Day of the Killer Tornadoes". National Archives and Records Administration.
- author = Dick Gilbert Foundation
- Tornadoes of April 3, 1974, NWS Louisville
- Horstmeyer, Steve (Dec 1995). "It's Not the Heat, It's The...". Cincinnati Magazine. p. 66. Retrieved 2013-05-18.
- Horstmeyer, Steve. "Sayler Park Tornado - April 3, 1974".
- NWS Northern Indiana. "The Monticello Tornado". NOAA.
- Anonymous. "Monticello, Indiana April 3, 1974 : Fort Wayne Girl Survives Van's Plunge". The Monticello Herald Journal.
- NOAA. "Storm Events". NOAA.
- Anonymous. "Monticello, Indiana April 3, 1974 : 122-year-old Bell Survives". The Monticello Herald Journal.
- NWS Birmingham (March 22, 2006 (last modified)). "The April 3rd and 4th 1974 Tornado Outbreak in Alabama". NOAA. Archived from the original on 2008-06-23.
- "Alabama Tornado Database—Year 1974 Tornadoes". Alabama Tornado Database. Birmingham, Alabama: National Weather Service. 2012. Retrieved 17 January 2013.
- "3/21/01 EIIP Virtual Forum Transcript: The Lawrence County Supercell, the Forgotten F5". Emforum.org. Retrieved 2010-06-16.
- Storm Prediction Center. "F5 Tornadoes of the United States : 1950-present". NOAA.
- "NOAA and the 1974 Tornado Outbreak - Alabama". Publicaffairs.noaa.gov. Retrieved April 18, 2013.
- "NWS Huntsville 1974 Tornadoes". Srh.noaa.gov. Retrieved April 18, 2013.
- Elliott, J.B. (October 13, 2006). April 3-4 Superoutbreak of tornadoes (motion picture) (in English). Alabama: ABC33/40. Retrieved January 4, 2013.
- Sherer, Dennis (April 3, 2004). "Night of April 3, 1974, marked change in severe weather alerts, preparedness". Florence, AL: TimesDaily. p. B1. Retrieved March 20, 2010.
- NOAA. "NOAA and the 1974 Tornado Outbreak". NOAA. Retrieved 2008-02-04.
- NWS Birmingham. "Alabama Tornado Database (1974 tornadoes)". NOAA. Archived from the original on 2008-04-08. Retrieved 2008-02-05.
- "42 Persons Dead in Severe Storms, Tornadoes in Alabama". Hendersonville, NC: The Times-News. The Associated Press. March 25, 1974. p. 19. Retrieved March 20, 2010.[dead link]
- Tornado! the 1974 super outbreak, by Jacqueline A. Ball; consultant, Daniel H. Franck. New York: Bearport Pub., 2005. 32 pages. ISBN 1-59716-009-1 (lib. bdg), 1597160326 (paperback).
- Tornado at Xenia, April 3, 1974, by Barbara Lynn Riedel; photography by Peter Wayne Kyryl. Cleveland, OH, 1974. 95 pages. No ISBN is available. Library of Congress Control Number: 75314665.
- Tornado, by Polk Laffoon IV. New York: Harper & Row, 1975. 244 pages. ISBN 0-06-012489-X.
- Tornado alley: monster storms of the Great Plains, by Howard B. Bluestein. New York: Oxford University Press, 1999. 180 pages. ISBN 0-19-510552-4 (acid-free paper).
- Delivery of mental health services in disasters: the Xenia tornado and some implications, by Verta A. Taylor, with G. Alexander Ross and E. L. Quarantelli. Columbus, OH: Disaster Research Center, Ohio State University, 1976. 328 pages. There is no ISBN available. Library of Congress Control Number: 76380740.
- The widespread tornado outbreak of April 3–4, 1974: a report to the Administrator. Rockville, Md: U.S. Dept. of Commerce, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, 1974. 42 pages. There is no ISBN available. Library of Congress Control Number: 75601597.
- The tornado, by John Edward Weems. Garden City, NY: Doubleday, 1977. 180 pages. ISBN 0-385-07178-7.
- Butler, William S. (editor) (2004). Tornado: A look back at Louisville's dark day, April 3, 1974. A 30th Anniversary Publication. Butler Books. 176 pages. ISBN 1-884532-58-6.
- Deitz, Robert E., et al. (editor) with an introduction by John Ed Pearce (1974). April 3, 1974: Tornado!. The Courier-Journal and The Louisville Times. 128 pages. Library of Congress Catalog Number 74-80806.
- Hartsfield, Ray J. with Robin Garr, Phyllis Morrisette, Jay Harris, Dave Knapp, Tom Scott, Terry Cowan, Mary Ann Woosley, Allen Hammer (editorial staff) (1974). April 3, 1974: The Kentucky Tornadoes. C. F. Boone, Publisher. 96 pages.
- Levine, Mark (2007). F5: Devastation, Survival and the Most Violent Tornado Outbreak of the Twentieth Century. Hyperion, New York. 307 pages. ISBN 978-1-4013-5220-2.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to: 1974 Tornado Super Outbreak|
- Full map of The Super Outbreak Tornado History Project
- "WHAS Radio Covers the April 3, 1974 Tornado Disaster," excellent-quality recorded coverage of the tornado at LKYRadio.com
- 1974 Windsor Tornado - CBC Archives
- NOAA and the 1974 Tornado Outbreak
- Super Tornado Outbreak of April 3-4, 1974 (National Climatic Data Center)
- April 3, 1974 Superoutbreak (NWS Indianapolis, IN)
- Super Outbreak of April 3rd 1974 (NWS Northern Indiana)
- The Monticello Tornado (NWS Northern Indiana)
- The April 3rd and 4th 1974 Tornado Outbreak in Alabama (NWS Birmingham, AL)
- The Super Outbreak: Outbreak of the Century (Slide show) (NOAA-NWS-NCEP Storm Prediction Center)
- The 3-4 April 1974 Super Outbreak: Outbreak of the Century (Slide show - Revised) (NOAA-NWS-NCEP Storm Prediction Center)
- The Super Outbreak: Outbreak of the Century (22nd Conference on Severe Local Storms, American Meteorological Society)
- Potential insurance losses from a major tornado outbreak: the 1974 Super Outbreak example (22nd Conference on Severe Local Storms, American Meteorological Society)
- A website dedicated to the Super Outbreak
- The Weather Channel's Storm of the Century list - #2 The Super Outbreak
- Super Outbreak 30th Anniversary Special (WHAS Louisville)
- WHAS April 3, 1974 Live Breaking News Coverage part 1
- WHAS April 3, 1974 Live Breaking News Coverage part 2
- Friday Flashbacks: Tornado of '74 - WHAS11
- Full map of The Super Outbreak Tornado History Project
- 1974 Alabama tornado table including tornadoes from the Super Outbreak - Courtesy of NWS Birmingham, Alabama
- The short film Day of the Killer Tornadoes (1978) is available for free download at the Internet Archive [more]
|10 deadliest Canadian tornadoes|
|1||Regina Cyclone||June 30, 1912||≥28|
|2||Edmonton Tornado||July 31, 1987||27|
|3||Windsor–Tecumseh, Ontario tornado||June 17, 1946||17|
|4||Pine Lake Tornado||July 14, 2000||12|
Windsor, Ontario tornado
|August 16, 1888
April 3, 1974
|7||Barrie, Ontario tornado||May 31, 1985||8|
|=8||Sudbury, Ontario tornado
Sainte-Rose, Quebec tornado
|August 20, 1970
June 8, 1953
|=10||Bouctouche, New Brunswick tornado
Portage la Prairie, Manitoba tornado
|August 6, 1879
June 22, 1922
Sources: Environment Canada (PDF)
|10 costliest US tornadoes|
|Rank||Area affected||Date||Damage 1||Adjusted Damage 2|
|1||Joplin, Missouri||May 22, 2011||2800||2858|
|2||Tuscaloosa, Alabama||April 27, 2011||2200||2245|
|3||Moore, Oklahoma||May 20, 2013||2000||2000|
|4||Oklahoma City Metro, Oklahoma||May 3, 1999||1000||1377|
|5||Hackleburg, Alabama||April 27, 2011||1250||1276|
|6||Wichita Falls, Texas||April 10, 1979||400||1264|
|7||Omaha, Nebraska||May 6, 1975||250||1065|
|8||Lubbock, Texas||May 11, 1970||135||798|
|9||Topeka, Kansas||June 8, 1966||100||706|
|10||Windsor Locks, Connecticut||October 3, 1979||200||632|
Source: Brooks, Harold E.; C.A. Doswell (Feb 2001). "Normalized Damage from Major Tornadoes in the United States: 1890–1999". Weather and Forecasting (American Meteorological Society) 16 (1): 168–76. doi:10.1175/1520-0434(2001)016<0168:NDFMTI>2.0.CO;2. 3
1. These are the unadjusted damage totals in millions of US dollars.
2. Raw damage totals adjusted for inflation, in millions of 2013 USD.
3. A search of NCDC Storm Data indicates no tornadoes between 1999 and 2010 have caused more than $400 million in damage.